Published on August 30th, 2017 | by Andrew Harvey0
Andrew Harvey about Eldership, Consciousness and Sacred Activism
Andrew Harvey was one of the keynote speakers at the Qigong and Conscious Aging Conference the first week of August at the Chi Center for Wisdom Healing Qigong in Galisteo, New Mexico.
Natural Awakenings is pleased to be able to share some of the insights from his talk at the conference.
O Love, O pure deep Love, be here, be now
Be all; worlds dissolve in your endless stainless radiance
Frail living leaves burn with you brighter than cold stars
Make me your servant, your breath, your core. – Rumi
It’s in honor of the Elders I know like Jane Goodman, Desmond Tutu, Vandana Shiva and the Dalai Lama that I ask this question: What is a true Elder?
And it’s in honor of them that I write this for you, and for me:
– A true Elder is a protector of life and a guardian of the wisdom for the thriving of the community.
– A true Elder does not shy away from telling truth and acts fearlessly in the name of truth and compassion from an integrated, peaceful and passionate way of being.
– A true Elder gives up all the games of status and success to enter the round of authentic freedom; modeling it with tenderness, joy and unconditional love but also with divine veracity.
– A true Elder becomes a kind but penetrating living flame of true joy, compassion and justice. That is what a true Elder being is
It’s in older age where everything that you’ve ever worked for, believed in and given your life for comes together. I plan to make my older age as scandalous, outrageous, exuberant, annoying, radioactive and passionate as possible.
But now we get to the second question: what does it mean to be this kind of true Elder in an age of potential annihilation of the whole of life? I think one potential answer lies in the phrase Conscious Aging. You can look at that phrase in a very lemonady way or you can turn that word “conscious” into three very profound and challenging invitations.
The first way is to say a true Elder has to be an elder that is conscious of the real state of the world. There can be no eldership without the courage and fortitude required to face reality as it is by facing the terrifying aspect of Kali the destroyer that it is now showing up. If you’re wanting to be an Elder and not wanting to do that work then you will never be an Elder.
The second way is that a true Elder connects with the all-embracing dance of consciousness in the entire universe. A true Elder is conscious of his or her Divine Self. A true Elder has done the vigorous discipline of sacred practice work over a lifetime. A real Elder models consciousness from a place of peace, joy, stability, strength, courage and deep commitment to the world that comes from being constantly grounded in their authentic, Divine Self.
And here is the third way of looking at this word “conscious.” One of the things you come to learn on the long journey into the Self was beautifully stated by Master Mingtong Gu (founder of the Chi Center for Wisdom Healing Qigong and host of the Qigong and Conscious Aging Conference) who said that the Self is totally transcendent, deathless, one with all things in all worlds, and present right now, right here in this world. So, the path of authentic eldership has nothing to do with golfing through long, lazy afternoons. The path of authentic eldership lies through the courage to face things as they are, the discipline to become one’s full Divine Human Self, and the responsibility to keep modeling what it is to live, love, act and serve from that grounded and divine reality that you are increasingly one with.
So, let’s look at those three stages of Consciousness. Where are we? The Dalai Lama said two years ago that humanity is on the brink of extinction. We have about 5 to 10 years at most to act in sane, secretly inspired ways. And if we don’t rise to this terrifying challenge with Grace and passion and peace, dignity and enormous relentless courage, your children and grandchildren will inherit absolute catastrophe if they are alive at all. It is absolutely essential that everyone gets with that reality and stops pretending.
So that is where I am and that is where a lot of the sacred activists and environmentalists in the world are and that’s where in my opinion all the authentic people who are truly seeing what’s going on find themselves. It’s an immensely sobering phase. It’s terrifying but it’s also invigorating. Rumi has these two lines:
Be grateful for The Friend’s tyranny, not his tenderness,
so the arrogant beauty in you can become a lover that weeps.
What those two lines mean is that in the face of this apocalyptic situation we are in be grateful that you’re seeing reality naked. Be grateful that the situation is literally unbearable. Be grateful because it is going to bitch slap you awake, into being authentic, so you won’t spend your whole life in the dreary middle class pursuits that otherwise would have swallowed you; dying contently on a golf course at the end of a completely meaningless journey.
How do we live as others conscious of our Divinity Humbled? There’s nothing more humbling than old age. Older age is where you’re having the deepest realizations. There are five kinds of practice that we need now and I’m going to run you through them:
1) The first kind of practice is the practice of peace and it’s the foundation of the divine life. You cannot live a divine life unless you are grounded in the divine serenity, peace and the divine joy that comes from it. Qigong is an absolutely amazing tool and sacred technology.
2) You also need what I call The Heart Practices. During times like this your heart is being shattered every single day and you’re constantly threatened. You need The Heart Practices to keep your heart juicy, wild and passionate. The Heart Practices connect you directly with the Great Holy Fire of the Beloved. It will enable you, over time, to become a being that is peaceful like the sea that is grounded in stillness.
3) You also need a profound prayer practice. This is because there may be times when you will not be able to do the other practices because you will be so shattered—especially if you’re authentic. You will come to your own Gethsemane, again and again, and you will weep tears of blood. And in that Gethsemane you can still pray—and I know this because I’ve been through 10 years of very long dark nights where I nearly lost my mind and nearly died many times and was nearly killed. So, when things got truly terrifying I just clung to the Rosary. I just said the rosary day in and day out. “Jesus, please spare me Gethsemane; not my will but your will.”
4) That isn’t going to be enough, either. Because what you also will need is profound shadow work that keeps you constantly humble, open and able to face the most dreadful things about yourself, other people, human nature and potentially even devastating things about the nature of God.
5) And one of the things you’re going to have to work with in this shadow work are the Five Shadows that this overwhelming extension extinction crisis are costing us.
The Five Shadows I have discovered for myself are Disbelief, Denial, Dread, Disillusion and Deathwish.
Disbelief: It is absolutely astonishing to all of us at some level that a crisis so overwhelmingly destructive is now so obviously unfolding. And this disbelief is very dangerous because if you don’t believe it then the dark forces that are behind will win and will destroy or enslave humanity. You have to look at your own disbelief.
And when you look at your own disbelief. you come across the second great shadow the dances inside all of us a notice and that is denial because the minute you start to face the extremity of the crisis, up comes denial. “Oh, technology will stop it all; the Democrats will solve it.” This is the time where we cannot afford any kind of magical thinking. Once you start to deal with your denial it gets more sophisticated and subtle.
The more you think you’re not in denial, then you uncover why you’re disbelieving and denying in the first place—and that is dread; terrible, gnawing, apocalyptic, agonizing dread. Dread that this might be true and that we might be looking at the extinction of the entire planet, the ruin of our home, and the death of all creatures within the next few decades. And when you dare to dance with that dread and you enter that great open space then you uncover what the dread is also sister/brother to. That is massive, angry, bitter, cynical disillusion with human nature because as you face the devastation, you can’t avoid asking yourself “how could we possibly have done this?” and, “who are we that do this?” When you really face the 20th century, whose masterpieces were the concentration camp, the atom bomb, and the new technological form of genocide—even when we knew that the environment was in a phase of disaster—and when you face the fact that now eight people are licensed by our capital system to own more than half the world, and when you face that this is not a democracy but is a corporate kleptocracy that uses all the forms of media and propaganda to keep people in the illusion that they are free, when you face all of this and when you see all the evil in the high places, the priests raping children in the Catholic Church, the gurus exploiting sadistically their supporters, the politicians lying daily in your face, it’s hard not to have overwhelming pain, heartbreak and disillusion over what we have created and what we’ve allowed to happen.
And it is a terrible thing to undergo, but again if you have a container, you’re doing the practices, you’re working the energy that qigong opens to you, then you can do it.
And when you come to face that, then the cobra at the core of the shadow rears it’s deadly face. And what you discover is that the last shadow is the most frightening of all and that we all have it—everyone. Everyone I meet now has it, because I can sense it, I can feel it, I felt it myself and now there’s a profound death wish. A wish not to be here in a time as agonizing turbulent and potentially destructive as this is.
So, we are going to need to do shadow work on the shadows individually and with each other.
The fifth important practice is Sacred Body Practice. There is no secret activism and no true eldership without an invigorated, vibrant and strong body. And I would suggest you do yoga, dance, qigong, energy work, all while being grounded in the divine peace.
But the real reason you’re becoming an elder is to become a dangerous, radioactive nuisance to all untruths and structures of injustice that are now killing the world and will make a wasteland for your children and grandchildren. And that means you need to combine the five kinds of service because being a true Elder is a monumental, grand, consummating achievement.
The five types of service are these, my friends:
1) Service to the Divine by whatever name you call the Divine. Get into connection through prayer and meditation and you will discover that it will guide you in the most miraculous and intimate way.
2) Service to yourself, but not in a narcissistic, New Age way. It means doing practices such as Heart and Prayer practices, Shadow Work and deep Sacred Body practices.
3) Service to all the living sentient beings. The World Wildlife Fund says that in 2023 two thirds of the animal wildlife will be gone forever. We must face our responsibility and, if called, rise to protect the animal creation and stand up for their voices; otherwise our world will become the site of the biggest genocide, the genocide of life itself and it’s beautiful, innocent and holy forms.
4) Service to your local community while thinking globally. Many have asked “what is my mission?” Ask yourself over and over “What causes my heart to break the most?” Read the newspaper, watch the news and find out what is so unbearable for you to even begin to think about. That’s when you know what God is calling you to speak up for. So, what’s your heart break? Claim it, discover the passion in it, and do something real about it! You discover that this will make you finally human.
We cannot do this work alone. We need to do it in groups, in circles. I created an organization called Networks of Grace. It was founded 10 years ago and is now all over the world. Usually 10 to 15 people will meet, sustaining each other and choosing projects together in their local communities. This has proven to be a wonderful way of organizing sacred activism.
5) Service by embodying compassion, dignity and kindness. At this moment every word you say, every act you do, every look you give to another human being has enormous consequences. It’s either helping the death go faster or it’s nursing this fragile birth of a new humanity. So be very careful in what you invest in, what you live in, what you eat, and where you travel.
Let’s make our older age as scandalous, outrageous, exuberant, annoying, radioactive and passionate as possible!